How many hours does it take to learn English?

Posted on August 6, 2019

When we start something we want to get an idea of how long it will take. So how many hours does it take to learn English? This is really a million dollar question, so let’s have a look at it in more depth.

English language learning depends on a multitude of different things, including:

Internal

  • Is English similar to your first language?
  • How much experience do you have learning foreign languages?
  • How much effort will you put into studying?

External

  • Are you taking good quality English classes?
  • Do you and your teacher focus on your goals when learning English?
  • Are you immersed in an English speaking environment?

In the media: How many hours does it take to learn English?

The BBC set out to tackle the question: “How many hours does it take to learn English?” With this in mind they interviewed a language consultant who gave a guideline of 1765 hours to be able to do a clerical job such as being a secretary. In the same article, English UK, a national association for teaching English, estimates that students need approximately 360 hours of study to be able to have a confident conversation.

Do I really need English classes? Can’t I just spend those hours speaking English?

Taking classes is important. I used to go for winter sports with someone who didn’t want to have skiing classes. She’d had a couple of classes when she first started skiing and could do a snowplough. This is the first way you learn to go down the mountain as a beginner. As a result, after many years of skiing she didn’t get much better and still made the same mistakes. Additionally, without correction she didn’t know what she was doing wrong.

One day someone in our group exclaimed, “Wow that guy’s really good!” They were talking about a man who had skiied for a fraction of the hours that the woman had. He had good skiing lessons which focused on correcting his mistakes, and therefore reached a high level much more quickly.

There isn’t a particular point at which you can speak English

Remember learning to drive? It was a process of improving through controlled practice and correction. There was probably no point at which you thought “I can drive perfectly now.” Consider that even when you first passed your test you probably weren’t as good as you are after some years of practice.

It’s the same with learning English, there is no fixed point at which you can say “I speak English”.  For this reason you should take the number of hours to learn English as a rough guide.

How people slow down the time it takes to learn English

  • Ineffective methods like listen and repeat
  • Trying to learn set phrases rather than creating your own sentences
  • Reading and writing without speaking

How you can speed up the time it takes to learn English

  • Take classes with a teacher who speaks English natively
  • Get corrected by the teacher, and make a note of corrections
  • Immerse yourself in English language culture

For more ideas, have a look at our article, How can I learn English fast?

Conclusion: How many hours does it take to learn English?

Studies indicate you need about 360 hours of study to have a conversation confidently, and continue to 1765 hours in order to do a clerical job. However you must take this as a very rough guide, and try to optimise your learning as best you can.

It would be unethical for any training provider to promise a certain level of English after a particular number of hours. This is because language learning depends on so many factors. Be suspicious of any course that promises to get you fluent in a short space of time!

We provide great quality English classes at your company in London. Get in touch today to set up your free demo class.

By Emily Stallard, owner of Orchid English

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